Why Jennifer's Body is the feminist horror film we don't deserve
Content Warning: This article mentions sexual assault, which may be disturbing for some readers. For resources, visit RAINN.org. This article also includes spoilers for the film Jennifer's Body. All opinions are those of the author.
In 2009, quickly after the release of Jennifer's Body, it was deemed a flop. the film initially received terrible reviews—Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 44%. This would go back to the poor marketing decisions. As the director, Karyn Kusama, and screenwriter, Diablo Cody, wanted young women as the target audience, the marketing team insisted on directing the film to men. Now, however, the film is gaining recognition by fans, but also by *pop stars* like Olivia Rodrigo, who paid homage to the film in her good 4 u music video, directed by Petra Collins.
Starring Megan Fox, the story follows Jennifer Check (Fox), a popular cheerleader who has been best friends with Needy, played by Amanda Seyfried, since childhood. Jennifer drags Needy to a bar in hopes of seeing an indie band she's been following. When the bar sets on fire, the two are in shock, but *luckily* escape. This safety only lasts for so long, when Needy goes home alone and Jennifer finds herself in the band's van.
When the band turns out to be worshipping the devil, the true horror comes out—and Jennifer is terrified of what might happen to her. A series of wild events leads to Jennifer becoming possessed by a demon. For Jennifer to keep her strength, she must kill and eat people, but she only does this to men...as they were the ones who wronged her. She uses her flirtatious appeal to lure men in, eventually murdering and eating them.
The film defies stereotypes that are typically found in horror, such as the "final girl" and oversexualized female. In horror films, the last person alive is usually a female, or there is a female whose sexuality is ultimately her downfall, resulting in her death. Jennifer's Body does not follow these stereotypes—if anything the film parodies them. Megan Fox's body is often shown in the film, but never enough to objectify her. Instead, she's able to reclaim her own sexuality.
A lot of viewers see Jennifer being possessed by a demon as an interpretation of the psychological impacts of sexual assault. Although this film came out before the #MeToo movement, a large theme within the film is reclaiming yourself and your experiences. As Jennifer (and her body) were taken advantage of, we see how that changes her. Moving forward after these types of unfortunate events can be difficult, but showing that it is possible to keep going forward is valuable.
Not only is this a feminist film, but it also includes LGBTQIA+ representation, which was quite unheard of at the time. There are many innuendos to express Jennifer and Needy's fluid sexualities. For example, Jennifer grabs Needy's hand during a love song at the opening concert...but when Needy notices that Jennifer is giving *total* heart-eyes to the lead singer, Needy has a lot of disappointment. Seeing two LGBTQIA+ female characters as leads is definitely important, especially when most films in the early 2000s had none.
There is a lot of discussions within the film about sexuality, assault, and feminism, but they also discuss an important issue revolving around the music industry. Specifically male, indie bands. For decades, fans—usually females, are taken advantage of by male bands, promising backstage tours in exchange for something sexual. These are prominent issues that are rarely spoken about, which is described in the film as the band takes advantage of Jennifer.
With this film being targeted towards males, it's no wonder it initially did poorly. This film is not for the typical heterosexual male, but it is for the young women who are navigating their teenage years. Jennifer's Body is all about reclaiming yourself, so it's only natural that females reclaim this film, too.